Andrew Hozier-Byrne is the man of the moment; with the recent release of his debut EP From Eden taking the world by storm, the Irishman from County Wicklow otherwise known as Hozier is the one to watch. The 24-year-old raised eyebrows with his first hit Take Me to Church, which scorns “the shrine of your lies” and the “poison” of each Sunday Church service; the track is a passionate disavowal of the Catholic Church, yet its potential for controversy has hindered none of Hozier’s success. Carried by his unfaltering vocals, the record has a depth and honesty that is rare in today’s pop culture.
Hozier is set to release his debut studio album under Rubyworks/Island Records this October 6th, a date long awaited by his fans. Forget ostentatious light shows, armies of energetic backing dancers and fit-inducing spectacles; this artist needs nothing more than his voice-box and multi-instrumentalist hands to capture his listeners. The gravelly tone of Hozier’s voice is entrancing enough, but coupled with his masterful lyricism, the result really is limitless.
As a teenager, Hozier taught himself to play guitar and piano, which cultivated his desire for music and ultimately led him to undertake a degree in Music at Dublin’s Trinity College. However, the budding musician dropped out midway through his first year to record under Universal Music, a decision he later strayed from. “I realised I had never been happy with stuff fully produced by other people and probably was never going to be” he has recently commented, “I used to almost not look forward to recording, because it was like, ‘Okay, what am I going to have to sacrifice?”. The County Wicklow-based musician has made sure his forthcoming album is purely a product of his own direction; you can hear this raw capacity in the music itself.
Having grown up on the blues, jazz and soul of his parent’s record collection, Hozier found inspiration in big names such as John Lee Hooker, Bukka White and particularly Tom Waits. These bluesy influences trickle through the album, particularly in his singing about heartache and longing. Hozier has confessed a recent break-up to be a good chunk of his inspiration for the record: “there’s no substitute for experience, to know what it is to be in love and to be able to write songs about it”, which, ultimately, is what the blues genre is all about. In the words of American blues singer Son House, “the only blues is the blues between a man and a woman”.
The LP’s sensual lyricism leads us to darker places in tracks ‘To Be Alone’ and ‘Angel of Small Death’, which feature heavy minor keys and sombre vocals, drawing upon the gospel as well as blues influences. At the heart of these songs are Hozier’s staple bluegrass guitar and oppressive beats, amidst gospel chorus oohs; the same oohs layer his sunnier tracks including ‘Jackie And Wilson’ and ‘Someone New’, yet with entirely different effect.
Hozier played all the instruments on the album, excluding a bit of help from Fiachra Kinder on the drums. On his future success, the musician notes “The pressure is what to release next...Every song I write won’t be as heavy as Take Me to Church, every video isn’t going to be as hard-hitting… but you just have to kind of go ahead with it.” The bar is high. But I have no fear that Hozier won’t make it.
Words - Claudia Turnbull
'Hozier' is out now